Carrollwood Gridlock Solutions on the Horizon?
Hillsborough Commissioners and the mayors of the county’s three cities have agreed to come together to hammer out solutions for the area’s transportation woes. Mass transit may or may not be part of the solution.
Does rush hour traffic along Dale Mabry Highway, Ehrlich Road or Fletcher Avenue have you down?
Hillsborough County is ready to seek out solutions to fix the area’s transportation problems.
The announcement that a policy-making group would soon form to explore transportation problems, potential solutions and possible funding sources came during the County Commission’s March 20 meeting. That group would include all seven of Hillsborough’s commissioners, a representative from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority and the mayors of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.
Rather than start off meetings looking at potential solutions like light rail, which has been done in the past, this particular group of county movers and shakers will instead come to the table prepared to talk about transportation strategies for Hillsborough before ever getting into the nuts and bolts of specific projects and costs, County Administrator Mike Merrill said.
While mass transit solutions like light rail could be a part of the eventual solutions provided to address the area’s transportation woes, group members are being asked to come to the table without preset solutions in mind.
“(We want to) lay the foundation with guiding principles of what kind of transportation we’d like to have,” Merrill told commissioners. “Not beginning with discussion of the revenues or specific projects; beginning with a discussion about the community transportation backbone.”
Commissioner Kevin Beckner wants to make sure the group will also look at the county not necessarily as a whole, but also with a more specific focus on the unique needs of different neighborhoods when it comes to transportation fixes.
“We need to go back and clearly define what the problem is,” Beckner said. “We know that getting from Point A to Point B is a problem for most of our residents. Different parts of our county have different problems.”
The group will also approach transportation problems and solutions based on their potential impact on the county’s economic growth. For example, placing an emphasis on solutions that might make Hillsborough more attractive to employers and the employees who might work for them.
Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who urged opening dialog between the county and its three cities, said the time has come for Hillsborough to tackle its transportation problems. Despite failed attempts in the past (such as the doomed transportation tax in 2010 that would have opened the door for light rail), Sharpe said things are different now.
“We have a serious problem,” Sharpe said. “When Forbes magazine says we’re dead last – 60th out of 60 for metro commuters – that’s a problem.”
Sharpe also mentioned Hillsborough’s distinction of being especially deadly for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Support Was Evident
Residents from all over the county turned out on Wednesday to show their support for creating a policy group to move transportation solutions forward.
Commissioners were especially surprised to see representatives from both the Young Democrats and Young Republicans come together to address the topic.
Sierra Club members were also present to applaud the idea of opening a conversation across the county.
“We have a problem and we need to do something about it,” Sierra Club representative Phil Compton told commissioners. “Let’s have this conversation. It is time.”
Commissioners agreed by voting unanimously to ask staff to push forward with setting up the countywide policy-making group. The hope is to have the first meeting sometime in the next six weeks.
What do you think Hillsborough County needs to do to make commutes around town easier – and safer? Would you be willing to pay higher taxes to pay for solutions? Share your thoughts in the comments section.